We had a friend over for dinner a few months back. He and his wife know how obsessed we are with our Google Calendar for family communication and organization. It’s a way to keep all of our obligations organized and also a way to feel connected to each other through the day.
I know what Papa Bear is doing and he knows what I am doing. When there is something we are doing together, we both have it on our radar and can be mindful of that time.
This friend and his wife are both involved in work and volunteer activities. They have a little one of their own who has his own activities. And they are trying to figure out how to find family time among all of those activities.
Not knowing each other’s schedule was a source of stress for them because one would make plans when the other already had something scheduled or vice versus. They would overcommit, be late for engagements, or miss something entirely.
Knowing that Papa Bear and I have a good handle on our schedule, they asked us:
How do you guys do this whole calendar thing??
So what did we do? We told them! We sat them down and showed them all of our calendars. How they are color coded. How they sync to multiple devices. How we even use it for meal planning! And how they are one of the best communication tools we have for our family!
Then we helped them build their own. And I am happy to say that I checked in with him a few weeks ago and the calendar system is working great!
Digital vs. Paper
There is a lot of debate over digital calendars vs a good old fashioned pen and paper planner (like the calendar on the fridge that your parents probably had). I am a firm believer in digital for a few reasons:
- You can simplify your scheduling by automating things. If you have a recurring event, just schedule it once and have it recur at whatever frequency you need. No need to write something in multiple times. This works for appointments as well as things like birthdays or holidays.
- You can declutter the look of your calendar by choosing to hide the portions that you don’t need. For example, I generally don’t need to know about Papa Bear’s schedule, so I hide those. If I am wondering when he will be home, or I am trying to schedule something that we both will attend, I can turn his calendar back on.
- You can put in a lot more detail. A paper calendar doesn’t always have a lot of space for details. But on a digital calendar, not only can you add standard things like location, you can add notes, websites, or even different time zones. Then all of the information you need about an activity is right there.
Our family uses Google for our email accounts and our calendar and then we sync it to iCloud. This site has a great breakdown of different digital calendars that are available if you would like to try something different. My How To links are all for Google, but pretty much any digital calendar has the same functions, you will just need to figure out how to do what you want to do each of them.
Creating your Digital Family Calendar
Let me share with you what we shared with our friends. Here are the steps and the tools you will need to build your own family calendar.
Sign up for an email account. Do you have one? Does your spouse have one? Great! Now sign up for a third account that is for your family. Ours would be something like “TheBearFamily@gmail.com”.
As Baby Bear gets older, we will probably create a calendar for him as well, but right now, we just use my calendar or our family calendar for Baby Bear’s activities. If you have older children who have their own activities, you can create accounts and calendars for them as well.
A bonus feature of the Family email account is that you can also use it as a shared family address book! Papa Bear and I merged our individual contact accounts into this one (by exporting and then importing). Then we chose the Family Email address as the default for our contact list. This has been a huge help for us because now we both have access to contact information for shared people (the vet, maintenance services, etc)
Create a calendar and add your personal events to your personal Google Calendar. You can schedule time for things like work, grocery shopping, or exercise. You can even make these events recur so that you don’t have to manually enter them each time! So fancy 😉
Have your spouse do the same thing from their email account. Same for older children if they have their own account.
Then, from your brand new Family email account, create a calendar for your Family. This account might have things like DATE NIGHT!!! Or, friends coming over. Or meal planning (ta-DA!).
Lost…? Google can help! (How to create a new calendar)
Share your brand new Family Calendar with yourself and with your spouse.
Share your calendar to your spouse and vice versa. And share your children’s calendars….if you created them, to yourself, your spouse, and your family account. (How to share your calendar with someone)
Once everyone has shared, you will all have access to all of the calendars! So when you view your calendar, it will look something like this (different colors for each account)
Add these email accounts and calendars to your phones/tablets so that you have access to the calendar wherever you are. (How to see google calendar events on your apple calendar). Then your calendar will look something like this:
The last part to this whole system is using the Family Calendar for meal planning. I usually meal plan once a week, and I usually only plan dinners. If you would like some new ideas for easy, family friendly meals, make sure you sign up for my Meal of the Week emails.
When I do our meal planning, I create events titled: DINNER: Whatever-recipe-I-am-making-that-night. The reason I write DINNER in the title is so that I can search previous DINNER events and just copy the content. Sneaky, isn’t it. 😉
In the notes section, I copy and paste the recipe and the URL for the website (if I found the recipe online). Some people even choose to recur their meal planning events so that they can plan a whole year at once! I prefer to do a week or so at a time so that I can adjust according to the season or other activities that may be going on.
Once I have chosen all of the recipes I want to make and have them entered on the calendar, then I make a grocery list for the ingredients that I will need. Its super easy to do because all of the ingredient lists are right there in the event.
Not so bad, right? It might take a few extra minutes to set up on the front end, but I promise you, it will save you a TON of time in the end.
Here is a summary of the steps you need to get your family calendar system up and running:
- Create a personal calendar for yourself, your spouse, and your children (optional)
- Create a Family email account
- Share your calendars
- Start creating events and meal planning!
Do you use a digital calendar for your family? What do you like about it? Is there something else that you plan on your family calendar? Leave me a message and tell me how savvy you are with managing a calendar!